three friends jumping

Building a Support Network

You pride yourself on being a strong, capable, and independent person who doesn’t need a helping hand to accomplish their dreams. You handle your losses quietly and your wins privately. In the past, this method of dealing with stress has worked out for you. But, at some point, everyone needs someone to hold them up, especially when they’re tackling a new adventure.

That means it’s time to start building out your support network! Having help available doesn’t make you weak; in fact, a solid support network cheering you on and lifting you up can help you be stronger. So, who’s in your support system, who can you count on as a student mentor, and how can they help you be the best student and be your best self?

Who should be in your support network?

children walking with arms around each other

Anyone who cares about you can support you. This could be an emotional connection, like a parent or sibling, or a professional relationship, like with a supervisor or more experienced coworker.

A support network is more than one person you look to for advice and guidance. It’s a group of individuals who are excited and invested in your personal and professional growth and you need different people for different reasons. Some of your supporters and mentors are the ones you can count on to be completely honest, telling you the hard truths no one else will. Others are there to believe in you, unconditionally.

How do the people in your life fit into a support system?

  • The one who holds you accountable. No matter how independent and motivated you are, you still need that person who holds you accountable for your actions... and your inaction. This link in your support network should be the person who isn’t afraid to push you to be your best self. They’re your biggest fans, your best advisors, and your toughest critics.

They also take on the dirty work, being that part of your support system that should be comfortable giving you some real talk when you’ve made a mistake. They won’t let your accomplishments go unnoticed, but they’ll also push you to improve your weaknesses to build a stronger you.

  • The one who knows you almost better than you know yourself. These supporters are people who’ve known you your entire life or people who you’ve opened up to more than you normally would. They know your strengths, your weaknesses, and what drives you. This person will be the one who you can call whenever and wherever, who can untangle the knots in your brain when you’re not sure if a big life change, like going back to school or applying for a promotion, is the right move for you.
  • The one you can lean on, no judgement. You’re driven and confident, but no matter how strong you are, you will always need at least one person to lean on when things are overwhelming. This is the supporter who will let you cry on their shoulder after a bad day, no questions asked, the one who will always be there for emotional support.
  • The professional one who has experience in your field of interest. This is the person who is a co-worker, supervisor, or a mentor who has found success in their field. They’ll offer you professional advice, from cleaning up your resume to guiding you toward the new skills you should acquire. Through their experience, you can map out your path to the successful career you want.
  • The one who has something to teach you. Whether an actual teacher, or just someone who is an expert in their field, this is the mentor relationship that is going to help you continually strive to expand your knowledge and learn more. This person will always have something new to show you and you’ll grow as a person and a professional.

You have people in your life, from family to friends to coworkers, who may already fill these roles for you. If you want to add to your support circle, you can also consider reaching out to classmates and instructors.

These individuals are crucial to your education, whether they’re the instructor you contact for guidance on a paper or the fellow student you connect with to start a study group. Reaching out to them can not only help you succeed in your studies or career, but it can make you feel more connected to your school as an alumni or current student.

Whoever you have behind you, rooting for you, it’s important to remember that not everyone has your best interests at heart. Lean on supporters and mentors who help you and genuinely want to see you excel; leave behind the ones who try to convince you your goals aren’t worthy or that you should toss aside your responsibilities.

Why a support network is important.

people tapping fists over desk

Having a support system, or social support, has benefits beyond having people you trust to guide you and offer a shoulder when things are tough. Support can actually positively impact your physical and psychological well-being!

A good support system can help you deal with the normal stressors you face in life in a healthy way. Whether it’s more of an emotional connection, or a professional one, having support allows you to talk through things that might be holding you back.

Your support system can also help you work through problems and big decisions, like changing your career or furthering your education And if you’re worried about not standing on your own, or feel that you should be more independent, guess what? Having strong supporters can actually make you more able to cope with problems on your own in the future, since they’ve helped you build your self-esteem and trust in your decision making skills.

The physical benefits of support networks follow the psychological ones. Reduced stress levels, more developed coping skills, and feeling part of a group positively impact health issues like high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and can improve cognitive function.

A healthier and happier you will be more motivated to move forward with your goals with confidence.

How to build your support system.

friends linking arms

You may already have the beginnings of an amazing support group with family, friends, and coworkers who are naturally there for you when you need help or advice. But things happen in life and, maybe, a support system you used to rely on doesn’t exist anymore or you think the system you currently have can be made stronger. How can you strengthen your relationship or build new ones?

  • Join a social club or group. This can be something local and in-person, like a recreational sports club. It can also be entirely online. With access to like minded people all over the world because of the internet, you can find friends and support through groups on social media or even your school’s student community.
  • Reach out to instructors and fellow students. An email, a post on social media, even a phone call to your school can get you into a conversation with someone who is happy to help and support your goals.
  • Ask the people in your life to be your student mentors. You might not need to reach out to new people to have a support person or support system to help you. If you’ve hesitated to ask for help or advice from friends and family in the past, it’s time for a change. Ask them to support you and keep you going when your work or studies seem to be a bit too much. You’ll be surprised how happy they are to help!

With Penn Foster, you’re not alone.

You may still struggle with the pride and indepence that have prevented you from reaching out for help in the past; that’s okay! It takes work to change your mindset and you may even be nervous about having people close to you know that you aren’t able to do everything alone. You may not be able to admit you’re struggling with them.

At Penn Foster, being independent is important. You’re responsible for staying on top of your studies in a self-paced program. But even independent people need a boost and your teachers, fellow students, and support staff at the school are here for you!